British Push for Civil Services Online at Odds with Three Strikes

A reasonable objection to so-called three strikes policies for file sharing is the increasing number of services that are exclusively available online. This argument, though, has also struck me as being a bit fuzzy. The distribution of municipal and federal services still seems kind of lumpy even with the recent, broad interest in Government 2.0 and transparency in general.

Cory’s post at Boing Boing about Gordon Brown pushing for Britain’s tax service to move completely online helps put a fair amount of force behind the argument, though. As Cory suggests:

Does this mean that accusations of copyright infringement in the UK will always be accompanied by a subsequent conviction for tax-evasion?

Hopefully it won’t come to that. The cynic in me envisions that someone unlucky enough to find themselves in this pass really will have to deal with the worst of both, and more but my optimistic side fervently hopes that lobbyists and civil servants will start fighting it out, as unlikely as that might be, around these issues of access.

A couple of recent developments give pause to think for a bit about that latter scenario. Certain variations of the three strikes and you lose your internet policy take a scorched earth approach. Not only would your current ISP be required to drop you but any other ISP could face serious liability if they offered you service to get back online. So it isn’t just this year’s taxes on which you might be delinquent but some unknown and unknowable number of upcoming years where you could be boned.

There certainly is no want for public access to the internet which might be available to you, but the other development we’ve seen is big content shutting down such access, even if it happens to be at a municipal facility like a courthouse. So going to your public library to try to file your taxes could just make the whole situation worse, not only for yourself, but other patrons who might get knocked offline in big content’s zeal to make sure you not only never share a file illegally again but do just about anything else that would qualify you as a member of the twenty-first century, network society.

The whole thing would be farcical if big content was so serious about it and trying to pushing it not only via the Digital Economy Bill but in most of the developed world via ACTA.

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